I went to college to be a dancer. My dream was to be an NYC Rockette.
At a tiny one hundred and twenty-five pounds, and experiencing a late hormonal growth spurt my freshman year, my dance professor looked at me and said, “You’ll never be a dancer, so best to pick another major.” His opinion broke me, and as a sensitive, naive, and insecure young girl, I allowed it to happen. I let a stupid man steal my passion from me. Instead of believing in myself and telling my professor he was wrong, I dropped out of college, ran into the arms of a man who lived three hundred and fifty miles from home, married him the following year, and stopped dancing entirely.
After that, I spent the following years lost, thinking I wasn’t enough, especially on a stage dancing. Each day that passed for the next eighteen years, I allowed those words of one single man to determine my happiness.
Then, at thirty-six years old, in a small studio gym, dance found me again. It moved me to the point of tears, held my hand, and reminded me of its power. I felt again completely alive.
Now I instruct dance to cancer survivors, the mentally challenged, and the wheelchair-bound. I teach dance to the young, the old, the frail, the strong, the small and the large, and each and every single one of them smiles with me during the hour they’re in my class. They clap at the end, and they thank me when they leave to go back home. Many have told me that the hour they moved with me was the best hour of their week, and it was their only escape from their stressful life.
I wish I could go back and tell myself, the young girl who cried because her passion was yanked from her soul, that one day she’d change the world with dance again. I wish I had known back then that my journey was supposed to be a different one, a better one, a perfectly imperfect one, and that it was the one that was exactly meant for me.
New Home, 2019
In June of 2000, I moved into my first apartment. I had lived in many apartments prior to that, but I had always lived with someone. That small, basic studio apartment I paid all six hundred dollars a month for in the middle of a party town that summer was all mine. No sharing the bathroom, the television remote or having to be worried about noise or disturbing someone in the morning because I woke up for work before them. I was so proud and excited about my own first place, yet I spent the next three months crying myself to sleep because I was alone, fresh out of a divorce and missing the love of my life.
I had met my ex-husband in September of 1996, and it was love at first sight. Fast forward almost six years and I was divorcing him, moving into that shitty basement apartment and sobbing day and night because I missed him. What should’ve been an incredible experience was instead full of heartache.
What I know now that I didn’t then was that I was moving into more than my first solo apartment. I was moving into the next phase of my life. I was moving away from lost love and moving toward self-love. I was moving away from my old life that included mistakes, anger, and misunderstanding and moving toward happiness, independence, and confidence. This phase would be a journey full of fear and the unknown, but it would be where I’d learn the most about myself. And one day, I’d consider it the best years of my life.
Moral of the story: Sometimes moving into a new home isn’t about four walls and a ceiling. It’s about what is waiting for you on the outside amidst the mystery of life and the hope for a better future.
The Theater, 2020
As an actor, there’s no feeling comparable to stepping on a stage for the first time, feeling the heat of the stage lights on your skin, looking out onto an audience that you can barely see past the blinding spotlights, and delivering your first line. That feeling is one you will never forget. I can recall every first line I delivered, sometimes to audiences of hundreds, but more often an audience of less than ten. But no matter how many people sat past that visible first row, we as a cast always gave each night our all as if each show was our last.
My final spotlight streamed onto my face in 2006, around the same time that my best friend’s dream to open and operate a local theater met its demise. Live theater wasn’t what it used to be. The popularity of the internet, YouTube, and Netflix made it hard to keep theater alive.
This theater is one that fell to ruins way before cell phones were invented. I couldn’t help but see it and think back to not only my early days of performing on stage, but to those many years when theater was so grand that elaborate dress was not only worn by the actors but by the theatergoers as well. Those days are dying, as now it’s common to attend Broadway shows in t-shirts and jeans.
This is my goodbye to that last spotlight. It is my farewell to the days of grand playhouses, flouncy, flamboyant gowns, crowds in synchronized laughter, uproarious applause, and to the unfortunate day when the last theater will shutter its doors. The lights will go dark, and in that moment, every actor--past and present--will never experience again that feeling they did standing on a stage.
Marion's Parlor, 2018
There are very few places I’ve had unlimited access to explore with permission. Approved access to this house and farm fell into my lap the day my mom died, literally five hours after she passed away. I was sent a text from a friend asking if I’d be willing to photograph a local abandoned location for preservation purposes, a place I had driven by dozens of times on the way to my mother’s oncologist over sixteen months. I never knew it resided right there, behind the trees within a stone’s throw from where my mother was treated, and where I had spent countless days fighting along her side as she battled the disease that eventually took her life.
The journey into this property lasted for three amazing months. Every single time I entered, I felt at peace. I felt my mom. During my first stage of grieving her death, I questioned my purpose and my reason for being on this earth. This house and its contents made me feel alive. Being inside and being allowed to photograph it confirmed that everything happens for a reason. That somewhere, somehow, my mother had dropped this opportunity in my lap. That I was MEANT to photograph it.
I can’t even begin to express how lucky I will always feel to have been granted permission to experience this amazing, historical place in the way I did. I can’t even begin to explain how photographing it also saved me. I found a new meaning, a new life, and a new purpose at a time I felt at my lowest. I found happiness just when I was on the brink of losing it. I found a reason to breathe again, a reason to survive, and a reason to believe that even though the most wonderful opportunities in life might be short, at least they happened. And sometimes, it’s in those opportunities that we find ourselves again.
The Memory of Her, 2019
Someone asked me once what my biggest fear was. I replied, “The day I lose my mom.”
At that time, my mom was in the midst of her cancer treatments. It was sixteen months of complete hell, one day consisting of bad news from her scans to the next day full of hope. False hope, but hope nonetheless. It was a rollercoaster. My emotions were everywhere, but each day when she was by my side I had a smile on my face and I told her, “At the end of this, it’ll all be okay.”
Unfortunately, “Okay” ended with her spending her last days in a hospital bed, heavily medicated.
My mother had very few words with her visitors during that time, and when she did they were incoherent. It was a constant puzzle, trying to unravel and decipher those words that we received from her. Although grateful for them, we were rarely able to understand them. I barely left her bedside over those ten days, praying that she’d somehow make it out of her medicated hell, and I dreamed of the day she’d open her eyes and say to me she felt better and she was ready to go home, even though I knew deep in my heart that would never happen. I had never felt so certain about her impending fate, yet my soul desired more days with her, even if they meant her lying lifeless next to me. No matter what I did, no matter what I said, no matter what I prayed for, her heart never stopped. I just wanted her suffering to stop.
And then, that day arrived. Her final breath was taken, and without any sign or notice, she left us.
But I thank the universe for those days, though I wouldn’t wish them on my worst enemy. I believe my mother knew I was there and she heard all my words. I will forever treasure that time we shared for me to say goodbye and for her to tell me she loved me, even though those words never left her mouth…
Every single window in my childhood home was adorned with stained glass. These pieces were hung by a suction cup in the center of each glass pane by a small metal wire. The one in my bedroom was a white heart frame with a red rose and green leaf inside. A blue cross, a hummingbird, a silver star and purple butterfly were other pieces I remember that decorated the remainder of the windows throughout my house. My mom made every one of them by hand.
One day at thirteen, she asked me if I wanted to learn how to create the stained glass ornaments. I think it was in hopes that she could not only pass on her talents to me, but also so that she could spend time with me doing something fun together. I said no.
Now, I’d give anything to have that time with my mom again and see that glass rose she made hanging in my bedroom window.
The Outhouse, 2017
On the last Mother’s Day that my mom was alive, I went on a long weekend getaway to visit her. But the visit turned into something we didn’t expect, and Mom and I didn’t even have five minutes alone through those three days.
Frustrated and disappointed, the night before I was leaving to go back home, I asked her if she would like to spend a late Mother’s Day together. I proposed waking up at six a.m., grabbing tea and donuts, and then driving around until we found cool spots to explore and take pictures. She loved the idea, so we planned that night to set our alarm clocks and do it.
In our sweatpants, we jumped in the car that next morning. After grabbing tea and donuts, we spent the next few hours laughing, talking, singing, and stopping at the side of the road to capture a picture or two. The air was super crisp, the sky just the perfect amount of cloudy, and the roads were empty. My mom glowed as she drove me to some of her favorite, local abandoned spots—one a broken-down outhouse—and even got out of the car to enter some of the decrepit houses with me. We shared that morning as not only mother and daughter, but as friends. It was by far the best Mother’s Day I ever had with my mom, and I will never forget it.
Threads of Time, 2018
When I was a young child, my mom made all of my clothes. In every photo captured of me as a child, usually awkwardly posing in front of a long, over-draped Christmas tablecloth made to look like a backdrop, I was always wearing head-to-toe “Made by Mom” outfits.
As I grew older, I begged my mom to stop utilizing her craft... to no longer make me clothes or anything handmade because I believed it was a catalyst behind why I was bullied in school. But there was something about creating a handmade item that made my mother so happy and filled her soul with joy. She continued to make me other handmade items instead, like stained glass, floral arrangements, jewelry, stuffed animals, or greeting cards. It wasn’t until I was older that I understood how much it meant to her. Being creative was my mother’s way of showing love to the people in her life. It was important to her, so I began to reach out to my mom more, asking for help with sewing costumes, painting a piece of furniture in my home, or framing my artwork. It was in those moments together that my mom and I grew closer and became friends. It was while we were creating something together that I realized how strong her love for me was.
Now all I wish for is to be given homemade stuff from my mom... to be able to watch her as she carefully sews me a dress or places beads on a thread to form a necklace... to be sitting next to her as we make a costume together... to have that one more creative moment with her.
About The Artist
Holly is an award-winning photographer and author from New York. As a young child, Holly had an infatuation with photography, mostly because she grew up in a home surrounded by images of her grandfather's work, who was a professional photographer for the New York World-Telegram & Sun. His love for photography inspired Holly to follow her passion to be a photographer. (Click HERE to see Roger's art.)
Over many years Holly captured every type of subject with her camera, but it wasn't until 2016 that her collection "Abandoned Beauties" was born. Two years prior, she brought her camera with her into an abandoned psychiatric hospital. As she crawled into a dark, narrow hole in the ground, and entered a basement full of cobwebs, debris, falling plaster, and rotted wood, something wonderful transpired within her. She found her true calling in the photography world, and that was to showcase the beauty that resides within the world of the left-behind.
Since 2017, Holly has been exhibiting her "Abandoned Beauties" collection all over the New York tri-state area. Her biggest achievement was receiving an award for her image "The Wait" by the Heckscher Museum of Art.
Last year, Holly published her book, "Exploring Home", an autobiography photo book that features one hundred images of her work paired with one hundred short stories about her life.
We hope you enjoyed the exhibit. As a thank you, here is an exclusive coupon just for you from The Cheese Patch.
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